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Dream Catcher - Chapter 1

Prologue

 

I was the only one in the infirmary and that was fine with me. I never knew when I would slip into that dark place and put others in grave danger. Syl had been giving me medication to help me sleep and control my dreams. I wasn’t particularly happy with the side effects, because it turned me into a zombie—alive but not really. And yet, it was better than the previous six months and Spartan’s increasingly unbearable training.

 

Someone shook my shoulder and I popped open my eyes. Something was different. I felt clear headed when Syl shoved a set of clothes into my hands. “Put these on and get dressed.”

 

I looked at her, wondering what was going on.

 

“Hurry up, Heaven, we don’t have a lot of time.” She glanced at her watch. “Shift change occurs in ten minutes, and one of the guards waits until the previous shift leaves before sneaking out for a cigarette.”

 

“Okay,” I mumbled. I put on the jeans and sweatshirt she’d handed me, then laced up the tennis shoes. I sat on the bed ready to go. Syl kept looking at her watch. I guessed that about fifteen minutes had passed when she poked her head out the door and motioned for me to follow her.

 

We hurried down the hall, and she used her security badge to move us through three separate checkpoints. I thought we were home free when we reached her car, until I heard a man call out, “Stop right there, Dr. Krause. I don’t want to have to shoot you.”

 

“Get in, Heaven,” Syl directed, as she slid quickly into the driver’s seat.

 

I hadn’t even had a chance to shut the door or buckle myself in before she screeched off. I managed to close the door and began fumbling with the seat belt. I didn’t think I would survive this car ride, but I’d rather die in the car with Syl than strapped in the chair in the midst of their regimen of torture.

 

Syl was probably a race car driver in her previous life. We barreled past the guard in front of the gate. Her heavy-duty SUV made mincemeat of the gate as it began to close. I suspect the startled guard realized we were making a break, but he’d been a bit too slow to close the gate.

 

I tried to keep the bile from surfacing, as Syl took our tail on a wild goose chase. I decided not to sneak another look when I noticed the speedometer reach 100. I guessed that Syl had given me a placebo instead of my normal meds, because I was far too alert, feeling every twist and turn in the road. At that moment, I almost wished for a trip back to zombie land.

 

Syl kept looking in the rearview mirror and finally lowered her speed. Her self-satisfied expression alerted me that we’d finally shaken whomever was following us.

 

“Can you please pull over for a second?” I croaked.

 

Syl looked again in her mirror, nodded, and eased onto the side of the road. I opened the door and puked before I asked, “What do we do now? You know they’ll find us.”

 

“I know some influential people. Trust me, it will all work out. I promise.”

 

I didn’t believe everything would work out and only hoped for a small amount of time when my life wouldn’t be filled with pain and loss. I never in a million years would have imagined the roller coaster ride ahead.

 

 

Chapter One

 

I wiped away the tiny crumbs that had gathered in the corners of my eyes, otherwise known as sleep crusties. The contentment that was slowly forming a smile on my face met my best mate’s stony glare. I froze mid grin.

 

Syl, my roommate and best friend, my only friend, had opened my bedroom door wide. She pointed to the voluptuous woman, whose eyes were darting around the room, just one second short of full-on panic. “I believe this one is attached to you. You didn’t take your fucking meds again, did you?”

 

“Can’t I please keep her for thirty minutes? That’s all I need,” I pleaded.

 

Syl shook her head. “Heaven, I did not bring her to your bedroom to satisfy one of your fantasies. It’s a good thing I love you, because you are still the craziest damn woman I’ve ever met. What if you had…”

 

She let the statement dangle in the air. Last time I’d foregone taking my meds, the hairy monster I’d conjured up barely made it back into never-never land before one of his razor-sharp claws landed on Syl’s back. She wasn’t very happy with me at the time. The hypodermic needle she’d jammed into my ass while dodging bigfoot was wielded like a dagger. I’d sported a big bruise for over a week, and she’d said it served me right for dancing along the edge again. I think she mumbled something like, fucking woman never learns.

 

“We can do this the easy way or the hard way,” Syl said.

 

“One kiss?” I bargained.

 

Syl held up the hypodermic needle. “Hard way, rightio.” She lunged for the bed and had me on my stomach in one swift move.

 

I yelped when the needle found its mark and sent me back into anti-dreamland.

 

 

When I rolled over and felt the soreness in my right cheek, I remembered the early-morning hope bubble Syl burst before it formed. I thought of an overly repulsive pimple, squeezed and bursting from the skin. I was reminded of why Syl was my only friend.

 

I owed Syl my current freedom and wondered why I felt compelled to test her loyalty and patience toward me. She was a government scientist who’d grown a conscience. I’d long since forgiven her for her earlier participation in the secret dream program. We both knew, deep inside, that my freedom was only temporary. It hadn't exactly been easy to escape from Spartan and Turnbull, but with their resources, they should have easily apprehended us before we managed to leave the compound. Things weren't adding up. Two plus two did not equal four.

 

There was no limit to the demented ways our government found to put itself at the top of the heap. Superpower with the Most Egregious Weapons was the name of the game. Psychopaths. The whole lot of them were an elite and very intelligent group of crazies, who thought up creative ways to topple the other emerging superpowers. I got the feeling they would be stepping up their game, now that a maniac was in office who condoned enhanced interrogation and other military tactics. It was 2017, and in many ways, we’d taken a huge step backward that demonstrated the lengths we would go to regarding individual freedoms for our own citizens. Exploiting teens was an acceptable casualty in the war against terror.

 

I rubbed my sore ass and toppled out of bed. Taking my index finger to the corners of my eyes, I wiped away the crusties. Like the crumbs from my favorite chocolate chip cookies, they scattered across my small chest and landed on my tank top. Two little grapes, that’s about all I had, not even a handful. I might as well have been a guy for how much God had decided to bestow on me. At least, I was blessed with a decent face and good hair.

 

Opening the door, I peeked my head out and found Syl’s cool gaze, as she sat at our kitchen table drinking her chai tea. I could smell the sweet fragrance and took it as a good sign. Maybe she wouldn’t be too pissed if she was relaxing with a cup of chai. I swiveled my head from right to left, looking for the woman.

 

Syl arched her eyebrow. “Really, Heaven?”

 

“There’s always a first time. Remember the motto, whatever you can think up…”

 

“And that’s why we came up with an antidote. Shutting down your creations is a full-time job.” Syl took a sip of her tea and sighed. “Sit down, Heaven. We need to have a heart to heart. I can’t keep doing this.”

 

I shuffled into the room and sat heavily on the zebra-wood chair. It was beautiful wood but not very kind on my already sore behind. “It was just one night, and I was having a really good day. I knew I’d only conjure up something nice…well, nice for me. You already have someone.” I started to pour myself a cup of tea.

 

“That’s what I wanted to talk to you about. Listen, the only reason that I haven’t moved in with Darla yet is…”

 

My head popped up, and I felt the heat rise to my face. My good mood was taking a turn in the wrong direction. “So, I’m some kind of charity case? Is that what you’ve been doing? Gotta make sure the Dream Weaver doesn’t create havoc. We can’t have that now, can we? Too bad your pals didn’t consider the consequences of turning a crazy, bipolar woman into a Weaver. Oh wait, that’s exactly what you hoped to develop… That dark side does make the best weapons, now doesn’t it? Why didn’t you guys just pick on the normal, run-of-the-mill sociopaths, you know, your brothers and sisters in crime?” I was on a roll. I took a deep breath and was about to continue my rant, when Syl held up her hand. She pinched her nose and appeared to gather her energy.

 

I didn’t want to take a journey down memory lane, the road wasn’t easy to travel, but the conversation sparked the memory, and I was forced to remember our time in the Dream Center.

 

Spartan had me strapped to the chair again. Steel plates kept my head in place, so I couldn’t look away. It was an ingenious method of keeping my eyes forward to take in every ghastly scene on the state-of-the-art, seventy-inch, flat-screen TV. Only the best for Spartan’s house of torture.

 

I wanted to close my eyes, but Dr. Spartan wouldn’t let me. If I blocked out the horror for more than five seconds, the increased current would send a shock of pain into my body. Eventually, I couldn’t resist anymore. I would relent when the pain grew too great.

 

I never knew where they dug up the various horror flicks, war movies, or other sick psychological thrillers. I knew they weren’t mainstream. I wouldn’t put it past the Dream Center to hire their own movie crew and create the most gruesome visual displays some psychopath’s warped brain could dream up. It was their idea for a primer to send me to the dark place, so I could conjure up something equally horrific.

 

On a particularly arduous session, I knew I might not survive the electric current that increased each time I slammed my eyelids and shut out the images. Death was the lesser of two evils. I always got the sense that he enjoyed delivering pain to me. Syl saved my life that day, when she walked into Spartan’s favorite room.

 

“Are you out of your fucking mind?” the woman’s voice asked.

 

I felt the electrodes being ripped from my body. I carefully opened my eyes and said a prayer when I saw Syl standing in front of the TV, blocking the dreadful images. I hadn’t recognized her voice; I tried to shield myself from everything in that room, to keep the images from burning into my subconscious mind.

 

I could almost taste the shock and regret that emanated from her eyes. It wasn’t exactly pity I saw, but I knew the sight before her was dire. I must have looked like dog crap.

 

“How dare you interfere in my training session? Go back to your lab Dr. Krause and finish refining that serum we need,” Spartan said through gritted teeth.

 

With an eerie calm, Syl responded, “If you kill Heaven, she won’t help you achieve your goals. I believe that Mr. Turnbull has special plans for her, and I wouldn’t want to be in your shoes if this asset is lost due to your incompetence. I think it would be prudent to have him see for himself how your methods impact our precious resource.” After she spun on her heel and left the room, Spartan called in one of his lackeys to supervise.

 

I understood why when Turnbull burst through the door. “You moron. Get her to the infirmary. If she expires, I’ll have your head.”

 

“Yes, sir.”

 

After the debacle with the dead scientist and my out-of-control apparitions, Syl was assigned to control me. I didn’t have a clue why the government thought it was a good idea to experiment with someone who was bipolar, but it seemed like the most successful Dream Weavers were those with personality disorders. It was ironic how the scientists could control the worst sociopaths, but they weren’t able to control me. Six researchers had lost their lives in the pursuit of science. That actuality just made me more unpredictable, as I blamed myself for every single loss of life resulting from my creations. I did discover, later, that an apparition that wasn’t even mine had caused the biggest loss in my life. Nevertheless, it was a never-ending spiral. Something bad would happen, and I would go darker.

 

Syl had always been kind whenever she had to inject me with a new drug. I knew she was taking extra care to hurt me as little as possible. I saw the compassion in her eyes, and I was grateful for the reprieve from my training sessions. Syl hadn’t been around lately, because they were starting a new regime and controlling me was no longer their objective. I think they believed they were on the verge of a breakthrough that would allow me to create and control my monsters.

 

Two weeks later, when I had sufficiently recovered from Dr. Spartan’s overambitious training, Syl found a way to take me away from the Dream Center. I didn’t have a better alternative, and deep down, I did trust Syl.

 

I had put my life in her hands back then, and I was still in her care. I shook myself back to the present and our conversation.

 

“I have a solution. Darla knows this Dream Catcher—”

 

The wood chair scraped across the floor as I abruptly stood. “Forget it. I’m not going.” I crossed my arms over my chest.

 

Syl sighed again. “God, you are impossible. She’s a lesbian, and she’s just your type. Curvy in all the right places. Darla says she’s a real sweetheart. She’s offered to work with you for free.”

 

My eyes narrowed. I was skeptical. “Why? What’s in it for her?”

 

“Darla told her about you, and she wants to meet you. She’s only met the low-level Weavers and is intrigued by your abilities.”

 

I leaned against the wall. “Catchers are worse than shrinks. The meds are bad enough, and now you want to sic their fancy mojo on me.”

 

“One time…it was one time. How was I to know the Catcher was sent by—”

 

“Spartan,” I finished for her. “Now there’s a real sweetheart. Why didn’t he volunteer one of his star lab rats? I can’t imagine he would dream up anything less for the total annihilation of our…” I made the symbol for quotation marks. “…enemies.”

 

“You know the answer to that,” she answered.

 

I did know the answer to that. We both knew they were just biding their time. Neither one of us was a fool; we knew they’d allowed us to get away. I was too valuable to them, and they knew Syl was the only person who could control me. Talent like mine was rare, very rare. There were a handful of us that could do what we did, but like any maniacal experiment, there were always unanticipated side effects. The side effects were the final straw for Syl. Finally, she recognized the dangerous game they were playing.

 

We knew there was an underground group, but no one knew how some of the Catchers managed to escape and stay free. They remained on the fringe, just outside of Turnbull’s control. There were even rumors that a few low-level Weavers were free. That gave me hope.

 

“We’ve both made mistakes, but I trust Darla. She has a sixth sense about people. In her own way, she’s as talented as you are. Will you please just meet the Catcher? And for God’s sake, take your damn meds in the meantime. I don’t know how it all works, or how long it takes for a Catcher to settle a Weaver.”

 

I felt defeated. I knew I was a drain on Syl’s energy. She needed a break from me. Even when I took my meds, a dream could slip through. She’d laid her own life on the line to put several of my genies back in the bottle.

 

I started laughing when I remembered the sex-crazed pole dancer I’d summoned, who ignored me and zeroed in on Syl. It was the first time I’d lied to her. I swore I’d taken the meds. She wasn’t prepared for her. I had to listen to her lecture about reckless behavior for over a week.

 

Darla was beyond pissed when the dancer began rubbing her body against Syl, but she got over it. I liked Darla. She had a sense of confidence that always made me feel settled.

 

“Sometimes my talent is fun…” I doubled over laughing.

 

“This is not funny, Heaven. You’re playing with fire, and all of us are going to receive third degree burns by mere association.” She growled to emphasize her point.

 

“Okay, I’ll meet the damn Dream Sucker.”

 

“Catcher. Don’t you even think about throwing derogatory comments her way. You know how much they hate being called that,” Syl warned.

 

“Catcher, sucker, same dif.” I rolled my eyes.

 

“Fine Ms. Dream Screamer.”

 

“Mean. You’re just plain mean. All right, point taken. I’ll be nice. She better be as hot as you say. Do you think she’d have sex with me?”

 

“Heaven!”

 

“All right, all right. I was just kidding.”

 

I really wasn’t kidding. I hadn’t been intimate with anyone in over two years. Who wanted to take the chance that a huge scaly monster would nestle between the sheets in the middle of the night after hours of mind-blowing sex? Or that a voluptuous woman would barge in on an intimate moment, for a ménage a trois I’d imagined. More than one woman left me in a huff over that stunt. Not that I was skilled enough to give my partner phenomenal sex. Any intimacy that ended my drought would blow my mind. It was hard to keep the fact that I was a Dream Weaver under wraps after the first few disastrous liaisons.

 

“So, when is this little blind date set up for?”

 

“It is not a blind date. She’s coming over for dinner.”

 

“Fine, you’re cooking.” That was an unnecessary declaration. We both knew that. I couldn’t even manage to boil water without burning the pan.

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